Phil’s heart will stay in Sheffield

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Phil Roper has revealed his disappointment after parting company with Sheffield Hallam Hockey Club.

The 21-year-old, who made his first England appearances back in June against Belgium, has recently become a full-time player, meaning that he will be training five days a week at the Bisham Abbey National sports centre in London.

Turning full time, however, has forced him to leave the place he calls ‘home’ and move to Wimbledon, who were also promoted to the Now:Pensions Premier League last season alongside Sheffield Hallam.

Roper spent three successful years at Sheffield Hallam and scored 32 goals in his final season with Vicky Joel’s team, to help them gain promotion to the Premier League for the very first time in their history.

“I have been at Hallam for three years and I love Sheffield,” Roper told the Telegraph.

“It is the place I call home, and it is really difficult to leave because I am not leaving out of choice.

“We looked at all the other options after I became full-time but, because I am now going to be based at Bisham Abbey five days a week, it just wasn’t practical to be driving back up here twice a week to play for Sheffield.

“Last year was an amazing year,” he added.

“We had a great team, trained hard and had no fear.

“It was an incredible season and I am really disappointed to be leaving it behind.”

Roper, who will face Holland tonight in Wakefield over the first of three England matches, won’t meet up with his new Wimbledon squad until September as he prepares for the European Championships in August.

Sheffield Hallam head coach Joel paid tribute to Roper, and admitted: “We are all disappointed that Phil is going.

“He had enjoyed his time here and it has been his home for the last three years, but after he become full-time it just wasn’t viable for him to stay.

“We can’t move Sheffield, so the logistics meant that he had to move and you can’t question his integrity and his ambition.

“He is focused and he fully deserves his chance at going full-time. He goes with our blessing.”

However, Joel has brought in a wealth of international talent, as well as keeping hold of her other stars, and is convinced they have the right personnel to cope in the Premier League.

“Our aim was to retain our assets, and apart from Phil, I have done that,” she said.

“We have a great group here, with some real talent.

“There are other guys here who have worked just as hard to help us get where we are now.

“And we are now fully focused on keeping this club in the Premier League.”